The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

March 17, 2010

Blogging, ballet & beer — with a perturbed poetry mention

I remember when I used to blog.

I know, it’s been a while.  Coming up on a month, actually.  So many cool things to write about and yet I don’t seem to be doing my job.  When we left off, Bonnie and I were just returning from New York City where it was cold and all Alan Shore-y.  Oh yeah, and a nice man in a bar bought me a drink while I was talking to the Beer Doc on the phone.  That still feels good.  I went out to the Art Bar last night to check out the final poetry slam competition — scouting for an upcoming undefined poetry reading (and by the way, Chris McCormick was robbed!) — and couldn’t find anyone to go with, so I put on my big girl panties and went alone.  Lo and behold, another dude tried to buy me a drink while I was talking to my friend Gillian on the phone.  He was creepy though — cowboy hat creepy, to be precise — so I gave him the Nora look and moved into another room.  (The Nora look is this “eat shite you pathetic fool or I’ll burn your house down” snarl that is passed genetically through the Boiter side of my family.  My dead grandmother Nora had it, and my also late Dad had it, then me, then Bonnie.  Bonnie has actually perfected it — you’ve probably seen it before from one or both of us.)

  In the interim since my last post, the Beer Doc and I spent Spring Break doing some final research on NC and SC beer.  Actually, I’m working on a story for Sandlapper on SC micros and brewpubs — focusing on COAST beer in North Charleston — a wife/husband team who are brewing organic, environmentally conscious beer that absolutely rocks; RJ Rockers in Spartanburg — home of the Son of a Peach summertime sensation; Thomas Creek in Greenville — home of the Deep Water Double Bock which is sumptuous; the Aiken Brewpub, which is in Aiken; and our own local Hunter Gatherer — the place I keep calling “our” pub and for some reason, people who don’t know it think it belongs to us.  I tend to get a little proprietary, I guess.  People who don’t know the Cellar may think I own it, too. 

In any case, much has been written about beer lately and less about my beloved arts.  (No, I don’t own them — it’s a figure of speech.)  However, I have done a couple of reviews for the Free Times of local Columbia dance companies over the past few weeks.  Here’s the piece on Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin, in case you missed it.

And I’ll try to be a better blogger in the future.

 

Issue #23.10 :: 03/10/2010 – 03/16/2010

Aladdin Gives us More — and Less — of What We Expect from Columbia Classical Ballet

BY CYNTHIA BOITER

   

Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin presented itself last Friday at the Koger Center as something big — something spectacular. In many ways, the company met its objective. Resplendent costuming in shimmering warm shades; a multiplicity of dancers at various stages of training; informed choreography courtesy of the rare former dancer who actually knows how to choreograph; delicate women; threatening thieves; and a plethora of adorable children littering the stage.  There is no arguing — it was a big show.

Based ever-so-loosely on a Middle-Eastern folk tale taken from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (though the characters of Jasmine and a blue Genie do not appear in the story’s history until Walt Disney Pictures adapted the tale in 1992), Aladdin is a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back and defeats the evil sorcerer with the help of a genie in a lamp. Choreographed by Classical Ballet resident choreographer Simone Cuttino — a John Cranko Ballet alum — the ballet Aladdin offers quite a lot of dancing.

In the first act, some might argue, it offers too much.

It’s not that exposition in a narrative ballet is a bad thing, but Act I could have used more of the fine-tuning — the winnowing out of superfluous movement and detail — that Act II demonstrated.

In a word, the first act was long.

That said, one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of the ballet came in Scene Two when Aladdin, danced by Aoi Anraku (a Gold Prize winner in the All Japan Ballet Competition in Nagoya), encounters Lauren Frere’s Goddess of Diamonds and her accompanying attendants (danced by Anna Porter, Renata Franco, Kaori Yanagida, Akari Manabe and Dee Dee Rosner).  Though Anraku rarely demonstrated much commitment to his character, stepping in and out of choreography as if it were a series of disconnected exercises, the women accomplished their parts exquisitely.

It can also be argued that the ballet itself didn’t fully take off until the very end of Act I when the character of Jafar, danced by the Ukrainian Oleksandr Vykhrest — who heretofore had lacked the menacing energy one might expect from a villain — came alive with malice as he danced the lights down on the act. Once the ballet found itself, the remainder of the program was a delight.

The highlight of the night was the desert scene in Act II, when the company rallied to produce a mesmerizing scene of conspiracy and deception. Jasmine, danced by Kaleena Burks (former student of Magda Aunon and Magaly Suarez), demonstrated particularly stunning pointe work and arabesques while committing to her character in a manner she had previously yet to reveal. Vykhrest’s Jafar exhibited not just a capacity for peril, but also for affection, as he pined hopelessly for the princess. Kazuki Ichihashi, in the role of the Genie, might have relied excessively on his turns to wow the audience, but he executed them spectacularly. The lighting, courtesy of technical director and lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, painted the desert scene with subtle, yet beautiful changing hues suggesting the passage of time as the scene progressed.

Why did this simple scene with few props and no stage clutter satisfy so?

Because big isn’t always better. Give me the respect for the aesthetic of dance, the purity of exquisite technique, the confidence of simplicity audiences have come to expect from director Radenko Pavlovich’s classically trained and, usually, impeccably coached dancers, any day. My favorite Pavlovich productions are the ones with little production at all — beautiful, proficient dancers on a bare stage with nothing but a capable lighting director to illuminate their prowess.

We got to see a peek of this local treasure Friday night — but only a glimpse and not nearly enough to last until next season begins.             

Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

   

 

 

February 21, 2010

New York City — for the weekend, a summer, for life

Coming to New York is, in so many ways, like coming home.

Years ago, when Bonnie and Annie were mere babes and their arts studies took them to NYU for Annie to study viola and to the American Ballet Theatre for Bonnie to study ballet, the Beer Doc and I decided that, if we were going to pay for anyone to spend the summer in Manhattan, then we might as well pay for everyone to spend the summer there.  So, for four summers in a row the Boiter-Jolley clan hunkered down in Greenwich Village for 6 to 8 weeks.  For the first two summers we resided in two bedroom apartments on 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets — just a block and a half up from Washington Park.  The next summer we opted for a two bedroom in the meatpacking district at the edge of the west village.  Then the next year we scored a three bedroom townhouse owned by the dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service which was also on 5th Avenue and Washington Mews, a half block off of Washington Square.  We were in heaven.

The results of out extended time in the city, in addition to an elevated credit card balance and the reality that the Beer Doc would be retiring a few years later than planned, were a comfort and familiarity with the city as well as the sensation that in some small way, the city is ours, just as it belongs to the millions of people who either live here or have lived here in the past.

Spending so much time in New York taught us that while the arts and adventures in the city are certainly spectacular, the real wonders are found wherever the sidewalk leads you.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Christopher Walken and Liev Schriber and Kristen Chenoweth are all performing on any given night within a few blocks of one another; just walking past Lincoln Center gives me chills — not to mention climbing to the upper realms of the New York State Theatre.  But the best things about the city are the conversations you overhear at crowded bars in Chelsea late at night; the best sites the ones you happen upon rounding the corner of Bleeker and McDougal or near the smoking area at Lips in the Village.

So when Bonnie decided to venture up for a weekend of auditions in the city, once again I figured, we’re going to be paying for a hotel room anyway — I’ll just go along, too.

Being a Southern girl by nurture and nature, New York winters offer me less opportunity for freelance adventures — the streets get pretty cold uptown — and spending only 48 hours anywhere puts a damper on too much wondering aimlessly around.  But we did take advantage of a couple of arts opportunities I’ll share.

Friday night found us at the Joyce Theatre in Chelsea — one of my favorite theatres in one of my favorite parts of town.  We were there to see Parsons Dance — we had no idea what we were going to see, we just knew we wanted to go.  To our thrilled surprise we got to see one of David Parsons’ most famous pieces of choreography, entitled Caught.  First performed in 1982 by David Parsons himself, Caught depicts a single dancer who dances to the music of Robert Fripp’s, “Let the Power Fall,” while incorporating the use of strobe lighting.  This may sound like something from a 1970s disco, but it is not.  The lighting is specifically timed as if the performer is dancing with the light itself — at times the light captures (i.e., “caught”) the dancer in a variety of series of midair jumps and leaps so that she or he appears to be completely suspended and flying through the air in circles and across the stage.  Verbal description fails this piece of choreography.  We got to see Zac Hammer perform this number — it was spectacular.

We also saw a rock-dance opera called Remember Me, performed by Parsons Dance and members of the East Village Opera CompanyJulie Blume danced the lead, and she was absolutely glorious.

Another highlight of the trip was seeing David Mamet’s new play, Race, starring Alan Shore — I mean, James Spader — with David Allen Grier, Richard Thomas (aka John Boy Walton), and Kerry Washington.  The cast was excellent and Mamet’s dialogue shot through the stage like an automatic weapon.  The plot deals with a law firm’s (unfortunately not Crane, Poole, and Schmidt’s) preparation to defend a white man who is accused of raping a black woman.  Of import is the way that we as white people and Black people speak of race — when we have the audacity to even do so.  Interestingly enough, the only time the play addresses the issue of gender is in the last line of the first act.  Alan, I mean James, states that race and sex are the same thing, then the scene goes black.  “Yes!” I thought — finally we were going to be talking about the woman (and women) at the heart of the issue, but disappointingly, we did not.  Someone needs to have a sit down with David Mamet and introduce to him the concept of intersectionality — the sociological theory that socially contructed categories of discrimination interact on multiple levels contributing to a variety of arenas for social inequality.  The absence of consideration for sex and gender in the play Race detracts from its efficacy — however, I am not oblivious to the title of the play — Race; not Race and Gender.  That said, writing a play about any form of rape without considering sexual politics is like writing a play about bread making without considering the role of yeast.  Given this caveat, the play is excellent and it raises questions that must be raised by someone, at sometime,  in some forum, if we are going to intellectually and spiritually progress as a human race.

On a far more frivolous note, Bonnie and I got our Boston Legal on after the play when we stage-door stalked James Spader, got his autograph and our photos taken with him.  Drat my daughter for taking my photo with her broken camera — yes, she has broken yet another camera — so I may never have evidence of my conquest.

Still, I do so love new York.

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